There have been a whole host of multiplayer shooters arrive on the gaming scene in recent years, from the very biggest Triple-A titles right down to the tiniest of affairs created by one-man micro developers. Swimsanity falls in the middle of that spectrum, created by the two-brother team at Decoy Games to provide both a solid solo experience and an altogether greater multiplayer one. The difference here with Swimsanity though is that the shooting action takes place beneath the waves, tasking you with the need to survive in an underwater aquatic world – and all the fun that brings.
Swimsanity will see you taking charge of a Mooba, an underwater diver who just so happens to specialise in taking down foes. Armed with a trusty little gun, it’ll be up to you to help this Mooba traverse his way across multiple levels of adventure, taking down a variety of fish and underwater foes all whilst dipping, dodging and swiftly teleporting your way to glory. Why? Well, why not?
There is no real story to be had with Swimsanity, but that matters little as the action itself proves to be the main sell. And no matter whether you have decided to take on any one of the five stages in the solo Adventure mode, pushed your skills to the limit in the harder, tougher, more frantic AdventureSanity (yep, that does as it suggests), or kicking back and battling waves upon waves of foes in Survival, it all plays out pretty much the same. But to bring a little bit of variety to proceedings, Swimsanity also comes equipped with local and online capabilities – and by god you’ll be wanting to utilise them.
You see, Swimsanity is an extremely tricky affair for the solo underwater adventurer, even with the added option of dropping AI in alongside. Whether you are attempting to navigate through the obstacles of the Deep Blue Sea, chased by whales and hunted down by sharks, left to maneuver through the turtle-populated Toxic Lagoon or the Crystal Caverns, or even found dipping your toes into the frantic Piranha Bay or Relic Reefs, you’ll find that success can only be had alone by going deep, dying, learning, and retrying. It could be said that is the recipe for success for any video game, but it’s ever present here in Swimsanity and I just wish that it was a little more forgiving for the solo player. And that’s me mostly revolving my thoughts around the standard Adventure and well-created stages of the Survival mode. Dare to fire up AdventureSanity and you’ll be swimming with the fishes before you know it.
Thankfully, it’s when you decide to play Swimsanity with a friend or three where the entire experience picks up in a big way. That frustration found in the solo form is swiftly pushed to one side as a team of brightly coloured Moobas get to cover each other’s backs, reviving friends when the time calls, and pulling off tag team specials to show those underwater enemies who really is boss. Whether you are a fan of local co-op, or feel the need to team up with others from around the world online, Swimsanity excels in the multiplayer scene.
Much of the draw of it comes in the form of the weaponry, power-ups and Unleashes that are present. A range of differently skilled unlockable Moobas are all present and correct, and each of these guys come with their own special powers (Unleashes). You may find one that throws down all sorts of fire in a specific area, you may prefer one that swiftly turns into a piranha to gobble up oncomers, another that takes charge of a screen-filling shark, or you may just wish to utilise the power of underwater medicine, healing both yourself and any teammates when the time comes. Mixing and matching the skillsets of the various Moobas whilst playing with friends is a huge part of Swimsanity; so much so that I’d suggest you’ll only ever really be successful if you can work together as a well-oiled machine. This is no more true than when you all come together with actioning special powers at the same time – there’s most certainly a Power Rangers vibe going on there as colours and skills mix to form one large special. It’s nice too that scattered around the arenas and levels you are swimming through come all sorts of temporary upgrades for your standard gun – rapid fire, bombs, trip mines, speed-ups, health gains and more can all be gathered up and utilised. Again, making the most of what you have is utterly key.
Swimsanity is helped in that the cooperative charge that sees a foursome tackle the Adventure and Survival modes is well complemented by a number of Versus options, complete with the usual gaming ideas in place. There are full on Deathmatch and Last Mooba Standing game modes which pretty much do as they say on the tin, but alongside that is a weird Orb Rush mode, tasking players to grab orbs and hot-swim it back to a base point in order to earn their team a score. It’s a little confusing initially but as a throwaway beer-fuelled party mini-game, it kind of comes alive, especially when the team option is switched on and tactical underwater warfare comes to the fore. I have to say that I’m not the biggest fan of any form of online Versus mode, but playing Swimsanity against friends just about does the job. It’s not a match for the cooperative lines that the game excels in, but as a nice little addition to break up play, it’s appreciated.
Unfortunately it has to be noted that during review play time there have been many missteps in terms of online connectivity – all too often players haven’t been able to join specific games, others have been dropped from parties, there’s an inability to invite friends who are ‘showing offline’ and general jankiness has taken hold. This review is being created ahead of full launch when Swimsanity will arrive with cross-platform capabilities across PC and consoles, and I’d expect connection issues to fast take a back seat, but it has to be mentioned here. I just hope the guys at Decoy Games ensure this is fixed as it should be a priority matter.
Whilst multiplayer connection issues could well be the downfall of many, Swimsanity gets a pass, mostly as it is helped along by some lovely visuals too. Everything about it is bright, colourful and fun, from the Moobas themselves right through the whole range of smaller fish and enemies, and even up into the big, cartoony bosses that will chase and harass you through each level. Credit must go out to Decoy Games for creating a title that is visually fun to spend time with. It sounds alright too – a decent backing track gives way to the usual shooting sound effects that us gamers have grown to love.
It has to be said that there is a host of content included in Swimsanity, and the addition of some clever Gold Orb challenges just cements that feel. These are gifted your way as and when certain milestones are hit in Swimsanity – play 10 matches, complete 20 waves of a level, see all of your team finish a stage without dying, and so on and so forth. Whilst all they seemingly do is unlock new characters and Unleashes, the way they have been integrated into both the menu and the game system as a whole is a good one. If all you’re normally bothered about are Xbox achievements, then these challenges drop a little more spice on top.
On the whole Swimsanity is a good, fun underwater shooter when played with friends, and an absolutely brutal beast when taken on alone. If you’re able to gather up a party of like-minded fellows and fancy taking on a new shooting adventure, whilst occasionally kicking back with the laughs of some competitive play, then Swimsanity on Xbox One is certainly a game to consider. If you’re more of a loner though, then it’s a tougher sell – something which isn’t helped at all by the relatively hefty asking price.